Abu Dhabi: Metro and Light Rail by 2017, Tripoli Urban Planning, Baku’s Crystal Hall

After last week’s announcement of the raft of new infrastructure funding, there are a few more details on the transit systems.

Will Abu Dhabi's metro resemble European/North American ones or Dubai's monorail? / Image via AD UPC's Plan 2030.

Both the mostly-underground metro and light rail/tram are expected to be operational by 2016-2017. The metro would run 131 km, and there’s also curiously talk of a 31 km monorail. (Gulf News). Besides new highways to Dubai and Saudi Arabia, the design for the light rail line is supposed to be done this summer (The National).

The Urban Planning Council (UPC) is holding community charettes in the Eastern Region, including Al Ain (UPC), and is pushing the “Comprehensive Cooling Plan” to target inefficiency in buildings under the their Estimada’s program (The National).

Al Ain National Museum. / Image via ADACH.

The Al Ain National Museum, which opened in 1971, is scheduled to undergo a huge renovation (The National), while Scotland’s Energy Technology Partnership signed an agreement with Masdar City to collaborate on green energy projects (Huffington Post).

UAE University students in the Department of Geography and Urban Planning are going to use SuperGIS Desktop Lab Kit and GIS Learning CD (Directions Mag). The World Ports and Trade Summit returns to Abu Dhabi in April (Khaleej Times).

Elsewhere in the region…
Fascinating look at Tripoli’s urban planning in different eras — from the organic pre-colonial growth of the old town, to the Italian colonial-era of grand boulevards and neighborhood squares, to the Qaddafi-era bubbles of suburban life (Atlantic Cities).

Tour Beirut’s Little Armenia neighborhood (CNN). Should the private sector take over recycling and other city services in Amman, Jordan? (Tareeq)

Baku's Crystal Hall. / Image via World Architecture News.

Designs unveiled for Baku’s Crystal Hall, the venue for the upcoming Eurovision contest in only a few months! Apparently folds in to a larger waterfront redevelopment plan (World Architecture News). Istanbul, Turkey became one of Europe’s safest cities, primarily by lots of community policing (Atlantic Cities).

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Abu Dhabi: World Future Energy Summit, Solar Power, E-Villa and Estimada, Al Reem Island, Qatar’s Space City, Petra Plan

Big event of the week was the World Future Energy Summit at ADNEC, I couldn’t attend due to school but United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon emphasized supporting renewable energy and reducing greenhouse gases to slow down climate change (The National).

Capt. Jaber Al Shehhi on top of the MS Turanor PlanetSolar inspecting the solar panels. / Image via ADPC.

As part of the summit, the world’s largest solar-powered ship docked at the Marina (Abu Dhabi Ports Co.). Despite the UAE building a handful of nuclear power plants, solar energy was the big focus this week, as the carbon-neutral Masdar City has new high-power solar panels from TVP Solar (AME Info) and are partnering with Spain’s Sener to build $5 billion in solar power plants (Green Building Magazine: Middle East).

Back in the city proper, the Municipality and Urban Planning Council (UPC) are quickly modernizing the city’s building infrastructure. Abu Dhabi is slated to get a building code soon (The National), and the UPC is setting up the Estimada sustainability ratings for existing buildings (not a small task) and launching an e-villa configurator for villa owners and developers to design their plans online, showing how different aspects affect the sustainability rating (Khaleej Times). Meanwhile the city is making it easier for developers to submit plans online (Emirates News Agency).

Dubai's The Palm is still a far cry from the vision of its original master plan for 30 five-star hotels with 14,000 rooms. / Image via The National and Reuters.

Meanwhile, Reem Investments is going to make Al Reem Island a new South Korean hub, including a Korean Cultural Center (Reem Investments). Sorbonne-Abu Dhabi students participated in the recent International Renewable ENergy Association (IRENA) Assembly (Emirates News Agency), plus a new Abu Dhabi film club is launching on January 25th (Aflam).

Elsewhere in the emirate, Mubadala won $1 billion in Airbus contracts for a plant in Al Ain (The National), and the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority is looking to invest in India’s urban infrastructure (Zee News). In Dubai, more luxury hotels are slowly opening on Dubai’s Palm Jumeirah (The National) and a billion-dollar Las Vegas-style development is slated to replace Dubai’s oldest hotel, The Metropolitan (The National).

Elsewhere in the region…

Design Workshop's new master plan for Petra, Jordan includes almost 95 percent conservation zones or open space, and watershed management. / Image via American Planning Association.

Qatar continues its building boom, with a $3 billion Space City, including a NASA-sponsored university (Hotelier Middle East), the $130 million Sidra Village by China’s Sinohydro (Zawya) and the Gulf’s largest labor camp holding 50,000 people. (Construction Week) Their soon-to-launch Green Building Council should improve sustainability. (Zawya)

In Saudi Arabia, its high-speed rail line continues to expand, signing an $8 billion contract with a Spanish rail group to connect Mecca and Medina. (WSJ) And urban design firm KEO is going to manage a mixed-use development in Jeddah (MEED).

In the Levant, there’s an upcoming conference on a greener Beirut (Beirut Green Project), and Design Workshop’s new master plan for Petra, Jordan won the APA’s Pierre l’Enfant International Planning Award (Jordan Times). Finally, who knew the oldest standing mosque in the United States is in Iowa and dates only to the 1930’s? (The National)

Abu Dhabi: New Urban Planning GIS Apps, Top Arab Buildings, Jazz at Lincoln Center Doha, Kingdom Tower

To celebrate World GIS Day, Abu Dhabi’s Urban Planning Council unveiled two new internal GIS applications that should help improve planning. (Al Bawaba and ITP)

The UPC now uses two new GIS apps. / Image via Al Bawaba.

GeoPlanner is an internal web portal, developed by the UPC’s Spatial Data Department, that enables the Council’s planners to easily identify masterplans, planning policies and regulations for any location or area and to visually track the development proposal review and approval process.

GeoPad for the iPad, has been developed by the UPC’s Spatial Data Department to allow managers and planners to easily view projects, plans and maps on their iPad device. Through online synchronisation with the UPC’s spatial database, the app allows users to access such updated data from anywhere and at anytime.

Shouldn’t there be historical districts to preserve the funky 1970’s Arab Modern buildings in neighborhoods like Al Markaziyah East? All these megaprojects are great, but what’s lost in the process? (Gulf News)

The UAE has several buildings in Construction Week’s “Top Arab Buildings” list. (Construction Week) Stunning pics of Dubai in 1990 — only a handful of skyscrapers along Sheikh Zayed Road, which looks like it was only two or four lanes wide? (Abdolian and Web Urbanist)

These three photographs depict the same street in Dubai, progressing from a few lone buildings in the desert to the jam-packed, seemingly perpetually-under-construction ode to excess that it is today. / Image via Web Urbanist and Abdolian.

German firms are helping Abu Dhabi think about renewable energy through Estimada. (Khaleej Times) The city opened a new e-waste recycling facility. (Gulf News)

The MEED Abu Dhabi Conference confirms that the city’s airport plans on carrying more passengers, and the passenger rail line is on track for 2018. (AME Info)

Elsewhere in the region…
Jazz at Lincoln Center: Doha, a unique partnership with the luxury St. Regis Hotels, continues Doha’s push to become the Gulf’c top cultural destination. (NYT) Infrastructure firm Interserve continues to focus on Qatar. (Construction Week)

Construction on Jedda, Saudi Arabia’s Kingdom Tower, a 1km-tall supertower designed by Adrian Smith and Gordon Gil Architecture, is slated to begin in January 2012. (The National) But real estate firm Jones Lang LaSalle says Saudi Arabia could use an urban planning commission (like Abu Dhabi’s) to help plan its 1 million affordable houses. (Construction Week)

Wonderful travel writing on Beirut, Lebanon. (The National) … Istanbul struggles with traffic — two bridges were built over the Bosphorous River, and a metro is being built…but will a third bridge destroy what natural heritage is left? (NYT: Latitude)